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Immigrant assets

In this nation of immigrants, it’s striking how often immigration is seen as a problem, not a source of strength. Many people believe those who arrive here from other countries drive down wages of U.S.-born workers and place a heavy burden on social services.

But if New York is any indication, these fears have scant foundation in fact. On the contrary, the Empire State demonstrates the benefits of welcoming immigrants who want to make a new life here.

A recent study by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli outlines how immigrants are woven into the state’s fabric and represent a key economic asset.

According to the report, immigrants make up nearly one-quarter of New York’s population and contribute to “the rich diversity of cultures, backgrounds, skills and experiences that helps make our state strong.”

Immigrants in New York are well-educated. More than 73 percent over the age of 25 have a high school education or higher, and close to half have completed some college.

What’s more, immigrants have a high rate of employment in New York. Among the immigrant population age 16 and older, the labor force participation rate is 65.4 percent, higher than the total participation rate of 63.5 percent statewide.

And the unemployment rate among immigrants is lower than average. In 2014, the jobless rate in the immigrant labor force was 5.4 percent versus 6.3 percent statewide.

The DiNapoli report also notes that immigrants “play an important role in stabilizing populations in upstate cities.” That fact was highlighted here a few months ago, when we noted a slight increase in the city of Rochester’s population—thanks to a nearly 20 percent jump in the number of foreign-born Rochesterians from 2009 to 2014. That more than offset a small decline in the city’s native-born population.

This population shift is not unique to Rochester. Indeed, a number of cities have embraced strategies to attract the foreign born in order to grow their economies and stem population losses.

Without immigrants, New York would be poorer—both economically and culturally.

11/25/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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